Author/Artist: chromatic_coma @ animusia
Character(s)/Pairing(s): (in this chapter) France, Spain, England ;; Spain/Romano France/England (?)
Genre: Friendship, Romance, Slice-of-Life, Angst
Warning(s): Kissing, Swearing, Homosexual Relationships, Original Character, YMMV Characterizations, Angst
Summary: A lot has happened in the past ten years, and for some it was impossible to keep promises that were once so central and vital. As their high school reunion captures them all by surprise, the Bad Touch Trio will have to re-learn the meaning of friendship and love.
x-posted @ hetalia and inthreesome
Part I Chapter I - Part I Chapter II - Part I Chapter III - Part I Chapter IV - Part I Chapter V - Part I Chapter VI - Part I Final - Part II Chapter I - Part II Chapter II - Part II Chapter III - Part II Chapter IV - Part II Chapter V - Part II Final
Scarred Heart in Hand, Part II Chapter VI
The other man’s shoulder visibly stiffened, and then Francis was turned around and their eyes met.
‘He looks older,’ Arthur realized immediately; the features of Francis’ face similar to what they had been when they parted at the airport ten and a half years earlier, but his face was longer, thinner, more mature looking. There were small, subtle bags hiding under his eyelids, his nose was bonier than it had been, his hair had grown out a bit more, and the most obvious difference of all was that the small hint of a goatee Francis used to wear fleshed out into a much more prominent one.
“Arthur?” he spoke finally, breaking the silence that had fallen down upon them. Arthur watched as he licked his lips, before breaking into a warm smile, “I did not think that you were going to come today.”
“I didn’t tell anyone,” Arthur admitted, “I wanted it to be a surprise.”
Francis laughed; to Arthur’s ears it sounded heavy and forced, but he wasn’t sure if he was imposing that sentiment on it simply because he was uncomfortable.
“It’s a surprise indeed. Come, sit down, Arthur, there is no need for you to stand.”
Arthur nodded, deciding that was a good idea; when he sat down he wondered how he’d gone standing for so long, because his legs collapsed like cooked spaghetti.
“So,” Francis started again, absently running a finger over the chest of the infant girl in his arms, “How have you been, Arthur?”
“Oh, I’ve been doing well. And yourself?”
Francis chuckled, and Arthur wondered if the situation was as awkward for the other as it was for him.
“I have been doing quite fine. After I graduated from the French Culinary Institute I remained in the city for a while, working at various bakeries and pastry shops that would have me. This part year, though, I was able to open my own shop, which is hectic but delightful.”
“I can only imagine that it would be.”
“And how about you; what have you done since you graduated?”
Arthur shrugged, brushing an irritating lock of hair away from his forehead, “I completed my undergraduate degree in English Literature, then a Masters in the same. Just this summer I got my Doctorate. My thesis was focused on the works of William Shakespeare.”
Arthur realized that he had started rambling, and yet when he looked up it was obvious that Francis had not lost interest in what he was saying. Actually, the obvious seemed true, as Francis leaned in and spoke softly.
“Congratulations, Arthur. Or, shall I say, Doctor Kirkland. I never doubted that you would come this far.”
“Ehm, yes, thank you…”
There was another silence, and Arthur, out of equal parts curiosity and nowhere else to look, turned his attention to the sleeping baby that Francis was cradling. She had lightly tanned skin and dark brown hair, features that Arthur could not identify with any one nationality, but that he observed could not be any further from Francis’. He looked closer, trying to find some common trait they shared, and finally decided that the softness of her hair and the thinness of her lips were rather Francis-like.
“Oh,” Francis said suddenly, breaking the silence and shifting the baby slightly, “forgive me for not introducing you. Arthur, this is Bella.”
Bella. The name could have been Spanish or Italian, and so at least Arthur could deduce that her mother was probably Mediterranean.
“She’s beautiful,” he replied calmly. “It looks as if… you’ve done well for yourself, Francis.”
Francis quirked an eyebrow at him, and Arthur got the sudden feeling that he had something wrong. That feeling was only intensified when Francis began to laugh.
“Oh, you think- Oh, no, Arthur, Bella isn’t mine.”
“Oh.” Wow, now Arthur felt stupid. “Whose is she, then?”
Francis gestured towards the crowd of couples, “I’m sure it is quite obvious, really,” he started with a chuckle. “She is the daughter of Antonio and Lovino, and I am watching her for them so that they can enjoy themselves.”
Yes, definitely stupid. “Oh... Well, what about you?”
“What about me?”
“…Are you enjoying yourself, tonight?”
Francis looked back out at the dance floor, this time with a soft smile.
“Yes,” he said decisively, “I am. Getting to see everyone again.”
He trailed off, and picked up again only after he had turned around to look Arthur in the eye once more, “…Getting to see you again.”
“I have missed you, Arthur,” Francis murmured an octave lower. Arthur felt himself blush, and was suddenly embarrassed by the way his body reacted, as if he was eighteen and not twenty-eight.
“So have I…”
“When did you get back?”
“Um,” Arthur looked down at his watch before answering, “my plane landed about two hours ago.”
Arthur took delight in Francis’ incredulous expression, and tried to ignore how tired and jetlagged he was for just a little bit longer.
“And you came here?”
“Yes, well, it’s not as if returning today was an arbitrary choice.”
Francis looked a bit smug at that, “Oh, are you admitting that you have missed us, Arthur?"
Arthur smirked, “Perhaps. But don’t let it get to your head, frog, I haven’t missed you.”
“That hurts,” Francis chuckled. Then he sighed, a lazy smile spreading across his face.
“What is it?” Arthur demanded.
“Everything about this moment feels right,” he responded simply, “Wouldn’t you agree?”
Arthur hesitated; when he opened his mouth, the snappish retort refused to come to him as it so usually easily did. So he defaulted to the truth, and in that moment the truth was, “Yes.”
Francis reached across the table, and brushed those long, nimble fingers over Arthur’s cheek in the way that he always had that made the other go weak in the knees.
“Join me for dinner tomorrow. I fear we have very much catching up to do.”
Arthur nodded, but after a moment he pulled away from Francis’ fingers with a scowl. Francis laughed,
“You haven’t changed very much at all, have you?”
“Have you?” Arthur countered, and Francis hummed,
“I suppose we shall see-”
Francis was cut off by the sound of an infant’s whimpers, as Bella awoke in his arms. Her eyes were still shut tightly, so he began to shush her gently, cooing her name and attempting to coax her to relax.
It seemed as if Bella had realized that the voice was unfamiliar, because she opened her eyes and gave Francis a very confused look, patting his chest because it was the only thing that she could reach and then her lip began to quiver.
“Hush, Bella,” he coaxed softly, “I am your Uncle Francis, and your Papas are just over there. Everything is alright, dear.”
Bella remained unconvinced; Arthur was amused at how frazzled Francis was becoming until the baby screamed and started to cry.
Lovino and Antonio were at their table within seconds, the former glaring daggers at Francis while the latter seemed to be in as amiable a mood as ever.
“Give her to me. What did you do?!” Lovino demanded, taking Bella away from Francis and bouncing her gently, murmuring sweet nothings into her ear in Italian. In his familiar hands she calmed down, rubbing her salty tears away. Antonio helped her, sliding his finger down her cheek and catching the droplets that she missed, and then he gave her nose a kiss that earned him a giggle.
Francis had simply looked sheepish, having no excuses to make because she had woken up of her own accord. As Lovino walked away with the baby, muttering something about changing her diaper, Antonio turned to make amends with his friend, and apparently he had only just noticed the other person sitting at the table. Arthur found Antonio’s surprised expression rather amusing.
“Arthur! You’re here! When did you get here? How long have you been in America? Oh, it’s so good to see you again!”
All this was said very quickly, as Antonio grabbed Arthur and pulled him into a tight hug. Arthur was surprised to find that, uncomfortable as he was with physical contact, he didn’t mind the hug; in fact, it was very much welcomed.
“Hello, Antonio,” he answered simply, unsure of how to handle all of those questions. “How have you been?”
Antonio was still grinning when he pulled up another seat at the table and sat down with them, answering with a laugh, “Amazing. And you? ”
Arthur thought about his headache, and about how absolutely queer it felt to back in this gymnasium when he had woken up this morning in a flat across the Atlantic Ocean. He thought about how awkward it felt, trying to become reacquainted with a man he had not seen in ten years; a man who, the last time he had seen him, he had been sobbing in front of. He thought about how lonely he had felt throughout his higher academic experience, not for lack of people around him, but because he had not been able to grow close to any of them.
He thought about how good it felt to be at home.
“I’m doing well,” is what he said, finally, and Antonio nodded.
“That’s good. Did you come back here for the reunion? I haven’t seen you in town for a while.”
“I only arrived in America a few hours ago.”
“Wow, that is dedication,” Antonio laughed, before pausing thoughtfully. “But then, you have always been dedicated to this school, haven’t you?”
Arthur nodded, and hummed in agreement; he wasn’t too surprised to come to the realization that he could not verbally agree because he felt guilty. From the corner of his eye Arthur could see Francis, sitting with his chin in his palms and surveying the dance floor thoughtfully. When Francis lifted his head up and caught his eye, Arthur turned away.
“I’m sorry I could not- I’m sorry I missed your wedding.”
Antonio gave a soft chuckle from deep in his throat, flicking his wrist as if to say, ’it’s no matter’.
“Don’t worry, Arthur. Lovino and I didn’t expect that you would come; we sent you that invitation because you’re our friend.”
“I would have come,” Arthur countered quickly, suddenly feeling the urge to defend himself. ‘Don’t be silly,’ he told himself, Antonio isn’t mad.
“I know, Arthur.”
“…I apologize. I guess that flight took more out of me than I thought.”
“That’s alright,” Antonio said reassuringly, placing his palm over the Arthur’s hand. “You can go home, you know?”
“But… the reunion…”
“We don’t need the school to organize a reunion for us,” Antonio said, rolling his eyes amusedly, “I have a feeling we’re all going to be seeing one another again very soon.”
Antonio turned to Francis, giving him a very pointed look, to which Francis replied with a forced laugh.
“You can count on it, of course.”
Then Francis rose from his seat, offering his hand with that same charming smile, “Come on, Arthur, allow me to escort you home.”
Arthur nodded, too tired to feel embarrassed anymore (at least, that’s why he tried to convince himself), and placed in hand in Francis’.
It was almost painful, how natural the gesture felt. Arthur stood up, and checked the desire to collapse into Francis’ chest; he was more tired than he had realized, obviously.
“Gilbert will be upset if you leave without saying bye to him,” Antonio told them. Francis looked up at Arthur imploringly, and the British man sighed.
“I wanted to go talk to Alfred, anyways…”
“Thank you,” Francis smiled, leaning in closer to Arthur, who was struck with the sudden fear that Francis was going to kiss him.
The moment passed, however, with Francis pulling back just as easily as he had moved in. Arthur shook his head, wondering if he was going crazy, and took his hand back from Francis’.
“Well, yeah, I’ll just be going then…”
“Shall we meet outside in fifteen minutes, then?”
“Yeah, that sounds fine…”
Francis nodded, excusing himself and cutting into the throng of dancers. When Arthur lost sight of him, he turned to bid Antonio farewell, but even he had slipped away. Arthur looked up, and found him harassing Lovino at the second gym entrance, taking the baby from him and fondling her. The sight of it brought a smile to Arthur’s weary face.
A smile which faded as soon as Arthur turned back to the dancers, and found Alfred, bowing to Chelles and excusing himself. It was now or never…
to be continued
A/N: There is only one chapter go, and I plan on posting it sometime this weekend, so stay tuned for this conclusion of this rather long fic. Thanks to everyone who has stuck with it for this long, you don't know how much it means to me!